1. Napoleon in Palestine

In 1798 Napoleon invaded Egypt and in the next year led his army into Syria. On these campaigns he was accompanied by no fewer than 160 scholars and engineers, who researched and documented the archaeology, natural history and topography of those countries. In 1808-1828 the results were published in the ‘Description de l’Egypte’, 23 volumes full of large engravings. Because of its military and strategic significance the atlas volume appeared last, in 1828.

This ‘topographic map of Egypt and some neighbouring countries’ consists of 47 sheets on a scale of 1 to 100,000 and has both French and Arabic captions. Because of the haste with which the surveys were produced and the frequently hostile conditions in which reconnaissance was carried out, the map does not meet the cartographic standards of the Europe of its time. But it does surpass all existing maps of Egypt and Palestine. French encampments are marked with sword and musket, battles won with two upward-pointing crossed swords (as seen bottom centre), and lost battles with the same symbol, but this time with the swords pointing downwards.

During the siege of the port city of Acre (now Akko in northern Israel), which lasted for months, Napoleon prepared a proclamation for the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine. Some historians state that this could only have been meant as propaganda. Nevertheless, when the Turks were aided by a British squadron Napoleon was forced to retreat. His 1799 proclamation was later used by founders of Israel as an argument for the resurrection of a Jewish state.

Acre, Nazareth, le Jourdain, Sheet 46: from: Jacotin, M. (ed.), Carte Topographique de l’Egypte et de plusieurs parties des pays limitrophes, Paris n.d. (1828)

Acre, Nazareth, le Jourdain, Sheet 46: from: Jacotin, M. (ed.), Carte Topographique de l’Egypte et de plusieurs parties des pays limitrophes, Paris n.d. (1828)